The FBI has a problem. Its agents need to pose as teenage girls to catch paedophiles roaming the internet. But they are much too old to know the lingo, never mind the chatroom grammar and punctuation habits that distinguish a hip 13-year-old schoolgirl from your average pot-bellied, 40-year-old law enforcement officer.
But they have found a solution. Or rather, three solutions, called Karen, Mary and Kristin. The trio of Maryland schoolgirls - think Charlie's Angels crossed with Christina Aguilera - have just spent the last year as consultants to the bureau to educate its agents in the finer points of modern youth culture.
Such as, do you ever capitalise words in instant messages? And, is Justin Timberlake still in? And, is "l2m" short for "love to meet", or "listen to music"?
As FBI spokesman Gary Bald told The Washington Post: "We can teach agents how to be careful and make sure they are following the law and how to arrest people. But how to convince people they're a 13-year-old is something we need help on."
Karen, Mary and Kristin - their last names have not been made public - have toured the country giving tips to the feds, instructing them to read Teen People and other magazines for young people, and setting quizzes to monitor their progress.
The girls were stunned at how poorly the adults did until they set to work on them. "They, like, don't know anything," Mary told the Post. Patiently, they tell their charges that, no, Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson are not cool, and George Clooney is not good-looking. "He's, like, 50!" Karen said.
The girls, who live in Baltimore, have each received a silver-framed letter of commendation from Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, thanking them for their contribution to Operation Innocent Images, as the anti-paedophile programme is called. The FBI has made more than 2,000 arrests since starting the programme in 1995.
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